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Create a Home of Forgiveness

Student Story: Lauren

Everyone makes mistakes—and that’s especially true when you’re young and inexperienced. Is your home a safe place for your teen to be less-than-perfect? This weekend on Parenting Today’s Teens, Mark Gregston discusses how to foster a forgiving home environment in order to pave the way for healthy reconciliation.

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Letting Go of the Rope

I recently looked at some old photos of myself and was shocked to realize that I was wearing the same shirts today that I wore 20 years ago.  I was so used to wearing them that I never took time to notice the nicer, newer shirts left for me in my closet as a gracious hint from my wife. I have the same problem with my shirts that many parents have with their old parenting techniques.  There is nothing wrong with their tactics for kids in their younger years, but they are just a little outdated for teenagers.

If your son or daughter is responding negatively to some of your well-intended discipline, and your attempts to rein in their behavior is not working, don’t automatically assume that what you’re doing is all wrong.  It’s just that your teen is changing at such an alarming rate that some of the established ways of doing things are no longer giving you the positive results they once were.

You can’t control the way your teen responds, so you might have to adjust what you have control of—your own rules and regulations—in order to initiate a different response.

Many times the way parents approach teen discipline is exactly what Ephesians 6:4 says not to do: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Though well intended, their use of outmoded discipline and efforts to shelter their teen can bring them to exasperation.  The definition of exasperation includes a number of words that clearly describe the situation I see with so many families today.  They are words like; make furious, irritate, provoke, annoy, anger, inflame, infuriate, exacerbate, make worse, enrage, and aggravate.

I have always read that verse thinking that the intent of the writer was to discourage dads from doing anything wrong in the rearing of their child, like cussing at a child, beating him, abusing him, yelling and screaming, acting selfishly, sinning against the family, and other things that would cause a child to respond negatively. However, older children in the teen years can also be exasperated over things that parents are trying to do right, without the parent realizing that their method is the heart of the problem!

For example, I once worked with a father who needed to update the way he approached his son’s discipline. His solution to protect his teen from this crazed culture was to keep him from participating in it in any way.  While it is admirable to insulate a child from the evils of the world, isolating him will never work.

The son shared that he loved his parents, but that they were ruining his life. He said, “They won’t allow me to just grow up.”  He brokenly shared how he was teased and picked on at school for never being able to attend school functions. He had no friends because he could not attend the events that the other kids did, or visit them in their homes. He choked up when he talked about not knowing how to relate to girls, and his embarrassment over making stupid comments in front others.  He did not know how to relate to them because he was never allowed to be around them.

He was being insightful when he stated that he was moving away from his family, his friends were moving away from him, and he was stuck in the lonely middle.

His story caused me to tear up, repeatedly. It hurt to hear this young man — who was really a good kid — talk about struggling through awful pains of adolescence. Something was so right in his parents’ good intentions, but also so wrong. Their son needed to know how to live in his world.  But when he couldn’t, he rebelled.  He was not right in the way he rebelled, but I understood his reasons for doing so.

My recommendation for this family is the same for yours; learn to loosen your grip, and let go of the rope, just a little.  Allow your teen some healthy freedoms, and open the doors of your heart and mind to trusting God a little more, and a self-made, isolated existence a little less.  It is tough to trust God this way, and even tougher to watch your teen navigate the rough waters of today’s evils.  But by the grace of God and the wisdom of parents willing to take their parenting to a level that is more effective – it can be done.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.

 


The Dream Teen

When we first hold our newborns, their whole life, all the possibilities, flash through our minds.

Will she be a dancer?  Will he be a jock?  I want her to do this.  He needs to be like this.  As our children grow, we are able to live out those dreams for our children with them for a while.  Young children are only too happy to do what Mommy and Daddy ask.  Life is good.  Your family is just like you have always imagined.  Everybody has his or her script and is following along perfectly.

Then in the teen years, something happens…

All of a sudden, seemingly overnight, everything changes.  Someone is no longer following the script!  Instead of a perfect princess, I now have an alien from outer space at the breakfast table.  How did this happen?

When you wake up and discover that your teenager is not as you have always dreamed, the first question should be, “Is this a bad thing?”  Seriously, just because it is not how you want it to be, is this the worst thing that could be happening?  Is your teen making decisions that are having a negative impact on her life and future, or are they just not the decisions you want her to make?

If you are honest and the answer to this question is that your teen is making decisions appropriate for an immature adolescent to make – maybe not the ones you would like – then you need to relax.  An intense desire to control a teen and mold them into your dream for them could provoke them to anger and full blown rebellion if you don’t lighten up a bit.  That is not where you want to go nor will it accomplish what you intended. Instead of pulling them, find ways to encourage them in the right direction.

On the other hand, if your teen is spinning out of control and making self-destructive choices, that is a different situation altogether.  It is time to take decisive action on their behalf.  The first step should be to identify a specific situation that was the turning point in your teen’s behavior, like the death of a parent or a divorce or even an inappropriate sexual encounter in childhood. This is where you need to start with a counselor.  The emotions wrapped up in such an event, exploding to the surface in the years of emotional adolescence, could be triggering your teen’s current inappropriate behavior.

Divorce, illness, job transfer, death, abuse, bullying — just about anything can trigger a change in your teen’s behavior, even the transition into adolescence itself.

But don’t assume that you know what the triggering event is.  Only a professional counselor can bring that to the surface.  It may not be what’s obvious. In fact, the obvious may just be a cover-up and a fallback position for your teen to hide behind.  It could actually be something that your teen is keeping hidden. Something done by her or to her that is so personal that she would never dream of telling anyone about it, not even you.

Teens have not learned the skills to appropriately deal with all their emotions (especially the really intense emotions of anger, pain and loss).  They’ll do whatever pops into their heads (or whatever their peers encourage them to do).  They’ll take advantage of anything that is available to help dull their pain — including alcohol, drugs, cutting, eating disorders, and sex.  Of course, this is not dealing with their pain. This is stuffing it into a box that will explode and take them even deeper when it does.

When parents try to eliminate the outward indicators of pain — drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity — they are just taking away their teen’s coping mechanisms.  That’s why intervention for these outward indicators, along with therapy relating to the deeper inward issues of loss and pain, is often necessary. The counselor will have to determine which is dealt with first, the cart or the horse.

Parent, I know you are crushed by your own emotions from this turn of events.  But don’t let that ruin your other relationships. Don’t let it change the way you are parenting your other children (unless the change is good) nor let it strain your marriage.  Find a friend to talk to and seek ways to reduce your stress, so the problem doesn’t spread through the family like a flu virus. It may be a good idea to get some counseling yourself. You’ll be no help to your teenager or could even make matters worse if you are always on pins and needles yourself.

When something devastating occurs within a family or to the teenager herself, or if there is some perceived or hidden loss that could affect your teenager in the future, I strongly recommend seeking professional help to work through the pain and anger that may come.  Refusing to deal with these emotions in a healthy way will lead to more pain and anger and a full blown spin-out.  It’s never too late to get help, but getting it sooner rather than later can save a lot of heartache for everyone.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

            Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program.   Here you can download the Parenting Today’s Teens App, a great way to listen on your schedule.